I have illustrated many books, but I’ve never created the illustrations for each page of every copy of a book by hand. Until now!
I teamed up with Claudia Cohen, an amazing and talented bookbinder.
Together we created a limited edition artist’s book called Idyll.
We met several times to figure out our subject matter and technique. For subject matter we settled on this fragment of a poem written in the 3rd century BC by Theocritus, creator of bucolic poetry.
Many an aspen, many an elm
bowed and rustled overhead,
and hard by, the hallowed water welled
purling forth of a cave of the Nymphs,
while the brown cricket chirped busily amid the shady leafage,
and the tree-frog murmured aloof in the dense thornbrake.
Lark and goldfinch sang and turtle moaned,
and about the spring the bees hummed and hovered to and fro.
All nature smelt of the opulent summer-time,
smelt of the season of fruit.
Pears lay at our feet, apples on either side, rolling abundantly,
and the young branches lay splayed upon the ground
because of the weight of their damsons.
For technique we decided to stencil the images. Together we figured out the size, shape and length of the book. I sketched out all of the illustrations and cut the stencils. Claudia selected and folded handmade rag paper.
Each Tuesday for 15 weeks I went to Claudia’s studio where I would stencil 20 copies of 1 page. She handed me the papers and kept everything in order. That got more complicated as we completed more pages.
I used gouache paint (opaque watercolor in tubes) and Korean stenciling brushes made of badger hair.
The stencils were held in place with small heavy weights.
As I finished each page Claudia would press it between wood.
I would take the pack of wood and pages back to my house and hand letter the words during the week.
Each page is unique; there are variations in the stencil print and in the lettering.
Here are a few of the other pages:
When all of the pages were stenciled and lettered, Claudia stenciled endpapers and hand lettered the colophon (last) page.
She bound the books in goatskin vellum with gold embossing.
She made a case for each book.
It was fun to spend the time with Claudia in her studio which is a treasure trove for bibliophiles.
It was a privilege to work with someone with such expertise.
Idyll is available from Two Ponds Press in Maine, although it might not be up on their website yet.
Claudia and I are starting to plan our next adventure. We won’t be idle for long.